The French court dismisses Agent Orange’s historic complaint

A French court on Monday dismissed a complaint by an elderly Franco-Vietnamese woman against a group of multinationals, including Monsanto, about the damage caused by the US’s use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The court in the Parisian suburb of Evry ruled that it had no jurisdiction to adjudicate a case involving the US government’s war actions.

The case was brought by Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old ex-journalist and activist who worked in Vietnam in his twenties, against 14 chemical giants, including Bayer, Monsanto and Dow Chemicals.

Tran says she has cancer, high iodine levels in her blood, genetic abnormalities and other illnesses related to Agent Orange. Her children were born with genetic disorders; one died when she was only a few months old. She has described the case as “the last fight” of her life.

Long fight for justice

The court dismissed the case, saying the companies were acting “on orders” from the US government, which was engaged in a “sovereign act.”

NGOs estimate that four million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were exposed to the 76 million liters (20 million gallons) of Agent Orange sprayed by US forces to destroy ground covers and food resources in the battle with communist North Vietnamese forces between 1962 and 1971.

The multinationals have argued that they could not be held responsible for the use of their product by the US military.

The US ended the use of defoliating chemicals in the war in 1971 and withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, defeated by the Vietcong.

So far, only military veterans – from the US, Australia and Korea – have won compensation for the aftereffects of the chemical, whose toxic properties destroyed plants, polluted the soil, poisoned animals and caused cancer and malformations in humans, NGOs said.

( Jowhar with AFP)

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